Seattle officials considered giving Black Lives Matter the police department's East Precinct building that cops abandoned amid violent protests in June 2020, shortly after the death of George Floyd, the Seattle Times reported, citing newly released documents.
What are the details?
Then-Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration drafted legislation to transfer the multimillion-dollar property to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, the paper said.
Calvin Goings, director of the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, emailed three memos and a draft resolution to Durkan on June 8, 2020 — around the time police were abandoning the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, the Times reported.
Durkan’s office discussed the transfer with the BLM chapter, the paper said, adding that the activist organization had lobbied to turn the building into a center for public health and community care.
“Good afternoon Mayor, Please see the attached documents as requested. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns,” Goings wrote, according to the Times, which added that text messages exchanged among key decision-makers — including Durkan and her police and fire chiefs — have gone missing.
However, the Times obtained the East Precinct memos this month through a records request, and the paper said they're the only details that City Hall has publicly disclosed about the potential precinct building transfer. The paper added that Durkan — whose term expired last month — distanced herself from the plan, which never came to pass as police reoccupied the precinct on July 1.
Durkan abandoned the transfer idea after “the very preliminary work by [the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services] and the realities of policing confirmed it was neither feasible nor in the best interest of public safety,” according to an email from Durkan spokesperson Chelsea Kellogg, the Times said.
Police officials apparently weren’t included in the conversations, as spokesperson Sgt. Randy Huserik told the paper via email that "we were not aware of any plans on the city’s part to permanently leave the precinct, or any plans to share the space with the community."
Former Deputy Mayor Casey Sixkiller said in a recent deposition that the Durkan administration gave up on the East Precinct transfer idea after BLM activists said they didn’t want the property, the Times reported, adding that Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County board member Anthony Canape said the organization "will not make a statement at this time."
'No plan to transfer the East Precinct'
The paper added that the Durkan administration denied the precinct building was offered, noting that Kellogg said “there was no plan to transfer the East Precinct and from the time SPD made the decision to temporarily evacuate the precinct for safety reasons, it always planned to return."
However, the Times said the June 8 memos show Durkan’s office was interested in a transfer before the precinct was abandoned, adding that a BLM letter dated June 15 — and circulated by mayoral staffers — demanded the transfer and offered to kick in millions of dollars to repurpose the building.
“We demand an active, responsive resource and tool that works for us, not one simply handed off for political expediency,” the letter said, according to the paper, and added that "one of our goals in reclaiming the East Precinct for this use is to quiet the physical space and surroundings. Protesters need a reprieve. They need to know that demands have been met.”
Then-Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan noted to other top mayoral staffers in an email that day that BLM is "willing to bring $ to the table," the Times reported.
But Kellogg suggested Durkan didn’t request the June 8 draft resolution, the paper said: “Interesting that you assume and state that the Mayor asked for a draft resolution on this property when that is not how the process works. [The city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services] oversees both city owned property and many real estate deals.”
Yet FAS spokesperson Melissa Mixon said "the Durkan administration directed FAS — in its capacity as the city’s real estate and facility management agency — to outline the process to transfer the East Precinct to BLMSKC,” the Times reported.
What's more, the Times quoted from what it said was a transfer resolution: “The City transfers permanent use/ownership of … the East Precinct to Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County, effective July 1, 2020. The City of Seattle agrees to vacate the property and remove all law-enforcement materials and police-related facilities …”
Amid the standoffs between Seattle police and protesters in early June 2020, the paper said Durkan ordered cops to remove barricades and let protesters pass by.
As cops were moving to abandon the East Precinct, protesters began referring to the area as an "autonomous zone." Soon it was dubbed CHOP (Capitol Hill Organized Protest) and CHAZ (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone), where activists lived for several weeks.
Durkin at first stated that "the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone #CHAZ is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection — it is a peaceful expression of our community's collective grief and their desire to build a better world." Yet at the same time the police chief said rapes and robberies were occurring in the zone — and officers weren't able to respond to them.
After shootings occurred in the area on back-to-back nights — one of them fatal — Durkan was finally done with the zone. She also apologized for saying the zone could bring about a "summer of love." Durkin announced on June 22 that police would go back to the East Precinct building, the Times said, and they did so on July 1.
Here's a June 12, 2020, video report about police abandoning the precinct and what happened in the area just afterward:
Police abandon precinct in Seattle neighborhood, demonstrators move in and demand reforms youtu.be